From the throbbing synth tones that overlay the cool command of the cold open, Drive declares itself a cinematic force to be reckoned with. Danish director Nicolas Winding Refn had critics falling all over themselves with his ‘biopic’ Bronson, but here he’s well and truly trumped himself with a display of staggering control and effortless style.
Ryan Gosling delivers a career defining performance as the nameless anti-hero: a powder keg combination of noir and samurai codes that at once recalls both Michael Mann and Travis Bickle. A triple-threat couched largely in silence, Gosling’s character is a mechanic, a Hollywood stuntman and an expert getaway driver. He is managed by his feckless boss (a brilliant Bryan Cranston), who reaches out to the Jewish mob (Albert Brooks and Ron Perlman) with dreams of further exploiting his employee on the racetrack. Meanwhile Driver is falling for the girl next-door (Carey Mulligan), but alas their love is resoundingly star-crossed.
Refn reworks an 80s mise-en-scene for his own exquisite devices, crafting this tender love story within an ultra-violent thriller. Case in point is an elevator scene, which features the year’s best onscreen kiss alongside eye-watering violence. Yes, Drive is a film that demands to be seen.
Australian release date: 27 October 2011
Published in Limelight Magazine November 2011